Male and female with two young children packing up red car.

What is a car service?

Wondering what gets done at a car service and if it's worth shelling out for it? Here's our full car service guide and checklist.

How often should I service my car?

We all know we should be looking after our cars, but how often do you need a full car service and what does it involve?

A car service checks your car is legal, reliable and safe. It will also help you spot any issues early on and so save you some cash by stopping bigger problems developing. A regular car service will also lower the odds of that dreaded breakdown and help prevent accidents.

Most cars tend to need servicing around the 12,000-mile mark or once a year – whichever comes first. But it does depend on your car's make and model, so check out what it says in your user's manual.

Car dashboard warning lights

Spotted a new light glowing on your dashboard? It might just be something small, so check your user's manual. But if it s something more serious, take it to a garage to get it checked out by the professionals. You can never be too careful!

What does a full car service include?

The garage will probably change your engine oil and filter, as well as any other fluids that need topping up. They'll also make sure the clutch, gearbox, battery, and brake pads and discs are all working properly, along with a load of other safety checks.

How do I find the best garage for a full car service?

A good place to start your hunt for a garage that does quality work for an honest price is the Motor Ombudsman. To find local, approved garages, just put your town or postcode into their search tool.

Can I do my own car service?

Some things should be left to the professionals, but here are a few things you can check for yourself:


The garage will give your tyres a proper going-over, but you should be checking them yourself every two weeks. We know it sounds a lot but they get a lot of use! The first thing you need to do is check the pressure – your manual will tell you what it should be. Then give them the once-over for any cuts or wear and make sure their tread is within the legal limit (1.6mm for standard cars).


You should check your oil levels with a dipstick every couple of weeks and before any long journeys then top it up if it's getting low. If the oil's dirty or smells of petrol it should be changed. If you're finding you need to top it up regularly there could be something wrong with your car, so best to take it along to a garage.


When your engine's cold, check under the bonnet to see if your coolant reaches the maximum mark. If it needs topping up, add a mix of 50/50 water and coolant, although read the label first as some come pre-mixed.

Wipers and screenwash

Check your screenwash levels once a month and before any long trips. The screenwash reservoir, as it's called, should be clearly labelled and is usually towards the front of the engine. If it's low, just pop the cap and pour more washer fluid in until it reaches the max line.

Wiper blades should be changed at least once a year, or as soon as they start smearing or making a nasty squeaking sound!


Check all your lights are working, including your headlights, indicators, brake lights, fog lights and reverse lights. If your taillight needs replacing, on most newer cars you can do it yourself. Check your user's manual to see what type of bulb you need. To fit it, open the boot and remove the plastic or fabric cover over the light. Carefully replace the bulb, and try not to get your fingerprints all over the glass. Oh, and make sure it works before putting the cover back on!


Inspect your windscreen for any damage from road debris - even a small chip can turn into a large crack if you don't get it sorted so it's worth getting a professional to fix it. Also, if the chip's significantly affecting your line of vision, your car will fail its MOT.

All information is correct at the time of publication. Hastings Direct cannot be held responsible for any misinformation displayed.

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